Mathematical proof: from mathematics to school mathematics

Rocha, H. "Mathematical proof: from mathematics to school mathematics." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 377.2140 (2019).


Proof plays a central role in developing, establishing, and communicating mathematical knowledge. Nevertheless it is not such a central element in school mathematics. This article discusses some issues involving mathematical proof in school, intending to characterize the understanding of mathematical proof in school, its function and the meaning and relevance attributed to the notion of simple proof. The main conclusions suggest that the idea of addressing mathematical proof at all levels of school is a recent idea that is not yet fully implemented in schools. It requires an adaptation of the understanding of proof to the age of the students, reducing the level of formality, and allowing the students to experience the different functions of proof and not only the function of verification. Among the different functions of proof, the function of explanation deserves special attention due to the illumination and empowerment that it can bring to the students and their learning. The way this function of proof relates to the notion of simple proof (and the related aesthetic issues) seems relevant enough to make it, in the future, a focus of attention for the teachers who address mathematical proof in the classroom.

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